David and his men reconvened at his headquarters. David’s men were elated, since they knew what Ishbosheth’s death meant for David. David’s somber and irritated disposition was typical David – his moods were frequently contrary to the mood of everyone else around him. Great victories usually meant David would warn the men how close they were to catastrophe and upbraid them for carelessness. Yet when David and his men were plundered by the Amalekites, they would find him singing songs of conquest or encouragement. Losses or retreats resulted in unmitigated enthusiasm about their next attempt or the planned counterattack he had in mind. Even though they expected it by now, it was still jarring and could suck the air out of a room. His men had just dealt with his reaction to Abner’s death; now this.
Abishai was the first to try to cheer him up. “My lord, nothing stands between us and the kingdom. We will send for the elders to meet with you here in Hebron. They should arrive within a few weeks. They have no choice but to unite around us, and Israel will confront its enemies with the full force of all twelve tribes!” By the end of this, Abishai, who was normally fairly muted, had a grin he only ever wore before or during a battle.
“What makes a king just, Abishai? What keeps his mightiest warriors from banding together, taking off his head, and replacing him?” David said, ready to launch into another speech. Joab rolled his eyes.
“My lord, I…We know you are to be king over all Israel. You are the light of Israel to us,” Abishai replied, mostly searching for an answer that would slow the coming flood.
“Every one of you here is here because you chose to commit your lives to the vision God gave for Israel. None of you were forced to follow me by your material conditions. Any of you would have been successful anywhere else – as mercenaries, as farmers, as merchants, as shepherds. The rest of Israel is desperate. They feel the encroaching threat of the gentiles around them. I never wanted them to join me on those terms, because once they are safe, and are no longer under threat, they will begin to question the necessity of our union as a people. And that will sow seeds of division, and some of those seeds will bear fruit, and it could split Israel again, as it split when Saul was slain. You must be able to think beyond the next battle or the next day for the sake of your own houses and our people. When we are successful, men may begin to question whether Israel must remain united. The tribes may think they can do it without the other tribes and deny our common destiny in the God of Abraham.” David tilted his head slightly toward Joab, looked downward slightly, and continued after a pause. “Men who believe they can dominate the world with only their sword and their arm will soon find themselves slain by one. Only when our hearts are in harmony can we truly be united as a people.”
Hushai the Archite sat in a chair closer to the wall, away from the central table where David and his warriors stood. He had arrived in Hebron that afternoon. He was a slightly overweight friend of David’s, a few years older, who was a skilled manager of David’s supply lines, tribute, and intelligence. The size of his belly – a strategically employed hallmark of a strong networking personality and a subtle humility – matched his joviality which was impossible to dislike. He had never been much of a fighter and his arms looked more like a scribe’s, but he was sharp-witted and invaluable to David, and never failed to make him laugh. Hushai had an impeccable sense of wines and could give the region and vintage with a few sips. Most of David’s men considered Hushai a high-level business associate of sorts for David. They knew he acquired supplies for him, but few knew the extent of David’s network and the breadth of activities involved. That was a closely guarded secret between Hushai and David.
Hushai stepped into the conversation to offer some constructive direction. “I’ve ensured that the fate of Ishbosheth and his murderers has been clearly announced from Dan to Beersheba. At the very least, they will know that it was not your will that matters be as they are now. It could be a lot worse, my friend; you’re not getting spears hurled at you anymore.”
David replied with a wry smile. “Thank you, Hushai. It is important that we hear from the elders of the tribes frequently and are open about our intentions. Our perspectives must remain broad and our hearts open to our brothers. Please begin preparations to receive the elders with no expenses spared.”
Most of David’s men smiled and looked at each other when they heard those last words; David’s family in Bethlehem had a legendary reputation for hospitality, and they knew all too well of Hushai’s requisitioning ability.